Portraits of an Older Michelangelo Indicate He Had Arthritic Hands

The Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.

Michelangelo probably had osteoarthritis, but his commitment to art may have kept his hands functional until his death in 1564. Those are the conclusions drawn by doctors who studied three portraits of Michelangelo from ages 60 to 65 by other artists. The paintings show that the small joints of his left hand were affected by noninflammatory degenerative changes, yet earlier portrayals show no such deformity. “Continuous and intense work could have helped Michelangelo to keep the use of his hands for as long as possible,” said Davide Lazzeri, a specialist in plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at the Villa Salaria Clinic in Rome and an author of a report in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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